Assistant directors

The assistant directors (AD) department is the bridge between the director and the rest of the production crew. A first assistant director heads up the department and acts as the director's right hand, taking on the important practicalities of a shoot and ensuring a disciplined, safe and effective working environment. They are aided by second and third ADs, crowd ADs and floor runners. 

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Skills needed to be an assistant director

  • administrative skills
  • confidence
  • self-motivation
  • time management and multi-tasking
  • people skills and diplomacy
  • set etiquette
  • attention to detail
  • IT skills
  • planning and organisation, including budgeting skills
  • willingness to work long and irregular hours
  • confidentiality and discretion
  • flexibility and calmness
  • interviewing skills
  • knowledge of relevant health and safety legislation and procedures
  • ability to produce risk assessments

Ways into the assistant directors' department

No formal education is required to enter the assistant directors' department. However, entry is competitive and relevant City & guild qualifications, HNC/HNDs, foundation degrees, degrees and postgraduate courses in film and TV production can be advantageous. Industry experience is key and most skills are developed on the job. The best way to get this experience is to enter the department as a runner and work your way up. 

Short courses like the National Film and Television School's (NFTS) Movie Magic Scheduling course and first aid courses are also beneficial. 

Jobs in the assistant directors department

First assistant director (1st AD)
The conduit between the director and the crew, and the director's right-hand person is the first assistant director. They must take responsibility for a number of important practicalities including breaking down the script, leading reccies and production meetings and working with the director and key personnel to determine the shooting schedule and how long each scene will take to film. On set the first assistant director manages the running of the set, which gives the director opportunity to focus on the actors, their performance and the framing of shots.

Second assistant director (2nd AD)
On each day of filming the second must prepare and draw up the next day's call sheet. Once filming begins, seconds ensure that all actors are ready for filming when they are required, entailing transport co-ordinating and makeup and wardrobe timetables. Seconds may be in charge of finding extras and coordinating their transport and activities on-set. The second is the main off-set contact with some of the other departments such as production, locations and facilities.

Third assistant director (3rd AD)
Thirds are responsible for coordinating extras, preparing and cueing them as well as sometimes directing them in any required background action. They may have to keep members of the public out of shot or off the set and location and will liaise with the location manager with regard to the security and tidying up of studios and locations after filming. 

Crowd assistant directors (2nd crowd AD, 3rd crowd AD, Crowd PA)
Crowd ADs co-ordinate crowds of extras for the background of scenes, helping to organise the transport and logistics of shooting with a crowd. They may also direct members of the public or keep them off-set.

Floor runner
Runners do anything required to aid the shoot's progress. Errands include conveying messages, organising props, looking after cast and crew, making drinks and providing food, driving, delivering technical equipment and attending specific requests form the producer, director, or assistant directors. As even small details may cause delays, they have to be quick on their feet and responsive to instructions.

Find out more about being an assistant director

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